Since we moved here, nearly ten months ago, we have confirmed one notion: EVERYbody wants to play Vegas. At least it sure seems that way. When we tell people that we’ve moved there, they freeze for a moment, the wheels inside their heads spin briefly and then they ask a variation on the same question: “How can I work Vegas?”
Well… here’s one way, maybe: Enter the Improv’s “Up Yours” contest. That’s a link to the rules for the latest edition of Budd Friedman’s and Mark Lonow’s online clip battle that ends up with six finalists peforming in front of a panel of judges at the Improv comedy club at Harrah’s on the world famous Las Vegas Strip.
The winner gets paid gigs at The Improvs in Las Vegas and in Lake Tahoe, which are, according to the website, “valued at $25,000.” No word on just how many gigs at the two clubs which are necessary to add up to that magical figure. Also, the winner gets “a meeting in Vegas at the time of the finale with an agent from the talent agency APA.”
Hop on, check out the competition and dive in. And, as always, check out the rules before you enter. Know before you go. Poke before you joke. Enter with your head, not over it. Blah, blah, blah.
The news on the internet is confirmed. Patrice Oneal has passed away at the age of 41.
From his Wikipedia entry:
Patrice Lumumba Malcolm O’Neal (December 7, 1969 – November 29, 2011) was an American stand-up comedian, radio personality, and actor. He was known for his cutting, often confrontational crowd work during which he often played couples against each other. He was a resident of Jersey City, New Jersey.
Oneal had a stroke about a month ago, which left him unable to speak. Hit TMZ.com for the story.
Originally appeared on Oct. 8, but bumped.
We have received many requests for an autographed copy of our book. And we understand why folks would want to own an autographed copy of our book. So we did some research and we’ve figured out a way.
For those who want to own an autographed copy now, we can offer one at $30, payable through PayPal. (That includes the book, autographed, and it includes shipping, via USPS Priority, anywhere in the U.S.) We’re not sure what to do about our Canadian friends (or those in other non-U.S. locales), but we’ll be sure and research that.
Just fill in the name for the dedication, click on the “Buy Now” button and you’ll be whisked to PayPal. There you’ll be asked to fill in your mailing address and other info and we’ll receive your order instantly! Then we’ll mail it to you via USPS Priority!
Of course, you can always buy the book– at your favorite bookstore or off of Amazon.com– and, if we should happen to cross paths (and someone nearby has a Sharpie!), we’ll be happy to sign it!
Listen to this interview with Kate Copstick from the Humour Me Comedy Show which is a British production. Copstick is described as “one of the most respected, revered and feared comedy critics in the industry.”
We’ll let that sink in.
She’s respected, revered and feared. In the course of the interview, Copstick downplays the fear factor, even dismisses it. But a comedy blog saw fit to unironically describe her as “most feared.”
It’s a lengthy interview, so it’s way too long for us to “Fisk” it. But it sends many chills down the spine.
As much as Copstick might protest that she approaches standup in an analytical or intellectual manner, if you listen closely, she seems to be informed by emotion. (The fact that she analogizes her use of the “star-system” of reviewing standup comics to a system of reviewing potential mates is very telling.)
Copstick slags that very star system. She claims to hold it contempt, but, the more she talks about it, we eventually find that it isn’t so much the star system that she dislikes but its use by others. She seems particularly annoyed that people she deems too inexperienced to have/impart an opinion about standup are allowed to do so. She condescendingly refers to a four- or five-star review from a hypothetical website–”IDon’tKnowMuchAboutComedyButIKnowWhatILike.com” she calls it. She basically goes on to say that such opinions are worthless (compared to hers) and that it’s a disservice to the public and to standup that they exist. Essentially, though, she’s revealing herself to be elitist. The message is: Who do these people think they are? Her opinions shouldn’t be forced to compete with upstart websites.
We suppose such an opinion is to be expected from someone in the legacy media. Not all the folks in the media are so disdainful of the folks in the electronic media. But a surprising number are.
She admits to being a failed comedian. Red flags go up immediately. Copstick spins this as a positive thing. Being a bad comic, she says, makes her better able to spot a bad comic. She likens it to being an alcoholic. We paraphrase, but Copstick essentially says, “An alcoholic can always spot another alcoholic.” In our experience, we’ve known too many alcoholics who think that everybody is an alcoholic. Glass of wine with dinner? Definitely someone with a problem, goes the logic. Not exactly comforting to hear a comedy critic employ such twisted reasoning.
She also seems to imply that she’s a failed journalist as well. At the very least, she implies that she’s slumming it, that her current dalliance with standup comedy criticism is not “proper.” (And by “proper,” she means legitimate. And, by extension, we get the feeling that she feels that standup may not exactly be legitimate. At least not the vast majority of it.)
These are not the kinds of things we’re comfortable hearing from someone who is allegedly respected, revered and, worst of all, feared.
As with Jason Zinoman, we are uncomfortable with the assumptions and prejudices that Copstick brings to the table.
Copstick writes for the Scotsman. She reviews comedians who perform across the pond. So the amount of “damage” she could do to the comedy scene over here is minimal.
Why anyone would want an American version is beyond us.
Jason Zinoman is a theater critic for the New York Times. Earlier this month, in his “Arts Beat” blog, “The Culture at Large,” Zinoman says:
If a stand-up comic kills in the forest, does it make a sound? I don’t know, but what’s more certain is that no critic from a major paper will review it. Every night in this city, scores of artists take the stage and perform for large, enthusiastic audiences, and are usually ignored by critics in the media capital. Most of those comedians are ordinary or bad, but a few may become the next Richard Pryor or David Letterman.
He says this as a way of teasing the NYT’s “regular column dedicated to comedy criticism… Stand-up and improv will be the meat and potatoes of these essays, but it will by no means be limited to those fields.”
This is heralded by some as a great day for standup comedy. We’re not convinced.
Zinoman’s first column, on comic Hannibal Buress, contains high praise for Buress. (Praise that, we hasten to add, is deserved.) Then we read paragraph six:
Despite the rumbling buzz surrounding this comic who has refined his skills for nine years, first in Chicago and then New York, obscure dance companies have been reviewed more often in the mainstream press.
Zinoman is trying to make the case that Buress has been wronged because he hasn’t been reviewed in a major daily newspaper. And that he has been doubly or triply wronged because he’s been ignored by the NYT. But, as it is demonstrated in the paragraph just before the above-cite graf, Buress has earned the admiration of his peers, has landed some prestigious writing gigs and is now signed to write and star in a Fox sitcom (co-produced by Jonah Hill!). So, Buress has been doing just fine without any help from the Old Gray Lady.
Standup, Zinoman says, “is the only major art form in which most American critics don’t take performers seriously until they leave the field” and he cites Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C. K. as proof of this questionable claim. Those two comics, he says, “needed television shows to really receive notice.”
Today’s comics “don’t get no respect, and considering their ambition, diversity and influence, they should.”
We are puzzled. Those comedians, Seinfeld and C.K., earned considerable respect– among their peers, in the industry and among their fans– and eventually parlayed that respect into situation comedies on a major network (Seinfeld on NBC) and on major cable outlets (C.K. on HBO and FX). And they did it all without critics. Why do we suddenly need help from critics?
We’re torn. We understand the power of the press. We also understand the considerable influence of the Times. And that power and influence could be a shortcut– for a handful of fortunate comedians– to the big time. And good for them if it happens!
But Jason Zinoman is but one man. One man who now wields (disproportionate?) influence by virtue of his new designation as comedy critic at the NYT. To those who rejoice at the prospect of regular standup reviews in the Times, we would recommend that they temper their joy with caution.
Such a column will have an effect on comedians, on consumers of comedy and on the business of comedy. And not all of it will be positive. Much of it may be negative.
We already note that Zinoman says that “most of those comedians are ordinary or bad.” We are not, at this point, going to dispute this claim, but we wonder why a critic would feel compelled to include this in the fourth sentence of the first paragraph of the essay that kicks off the whole comedy reviewing adventure.
And in his second column– on female comedians– Zinoman says offhandedly that “a majority of male stand-ups are neurotics nursing anxieties.”
Leaving aside the fact that Zinoman is bringing his prejudices and questionable assumptions to the task of reviewing standup comics (he is human, after all), we can’t help but think that this could end badly.
While others jump for joy at the prospect of a new-found “respect” conferred upon some select comedians (and, by extension, all of us in the profession) by virtue of a mention in the Times, we fear a future where those not sanctioned by the Times are viewed as somehow lacking. (Or worse, a negative review– and there will be negative reviews– will unfairly derail a comedian’s career or damage his marketability.) We fear that this will have an undue influence on consumers of comedy who will make their choices based solely on the latest review.
Our biggest fear is that comedians will start changing to conform to what they perceive as the features necessary to receive the blessing of Zinoman (or other reviewers). The logical outcome of such a scenario is that comedians will slowly begin to sound, act and look the same. Already, we’ve heard from one comedian who cautioned that we should go easy on Mr. Zinoman, not anger him. The theory is that standup needs columnists. We’re not convinced. And such subservience gives the reviewer added, unearned power which might warp the creative process.
There’s a lot to be said for a community of comedians essentially laboring (incubating?) in relative obscurity, operating only on feedback from audiences.
We’ve nearly always refrained from reviewing performances or CD’s or DVD’s. This stuns some of our readers and disappoints many of our colleagues. We have a very good reason for this. We prefer to let folks make up their own minds. We’ve paid more attention to a comedian’s “backstory,” or an interview or a story about a comic’s interesting side projects. We assume that nearly all experienced, successful comedians are making an honest and unique attempt at standup, at making people laugh.
We stopped paying attention to reviewers and reviews– about movies, about restaurants, about wine, about music– a looong time ago. It was frustrating when we disagreed with a critic and not at all satisfying when we agreed. Tragically, we’ve seen some things destroyed by a negative review or two.
We’re not saying that the Times’ move is automatically a tragic development. But we are urging everyone to be cautious and that this isn’t the salvation of comedy that so many believe it to be.
We awoke this morning to find that a Facebook friend (Carl Brandt) posted on The Male Half’s wall that SHECKYmagazine had been “name-checked” on the Nick and Artie Show, the nationally-syndicated radio show hosted by Artie Lange and Nick DiPaolo. (The show debuted October 3 and is described as focusing on sports and entertainment.)
We hopped onto the N&A website and listened to hour one of the Thursday broadcast in which a caller, Karen from Boston, chatted with the hosts about the Steve Sweeney assault story (Scroll down to see our post on that). Sure enough, at the end of her call (at the 12:15 mark of the broadcast), she quoted the last line of the aforementioned SHECKYmagazine post– “It’s even more astonishing that anyone would tangle with a Boston comic! If she had done that in the 80s, she’d be in a full body cast right now.”
Tellingly, “Karen” referred to the author of the line (and to the author of the blog) as “he.” This is something we’ve noticed now for a long time. While it is true that the blog is named after a man. And while it might be argued that the tone of the magazine could be interpreted as masculine, we’ve gone to great lengths to convey that it’s a joint effort between two people– a man and a woman. We even have our photographs prominently displayed top left! We’ve adopted certain crazy conventions (like referring to The Female Half and The Male Half, and wiping out any use of “I” when writing posts) to make it clear that the posts are authored jointly. We’re not sure how anyone– let alone “Karen,” who is obviously a woman– could automatically use the masculine pronoun when referring to our blog. But it happens with alarming frequency.
We briefly addressed this very subject during a recent interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal (LVR-J) columnist Mike Weatherford. Weatherford’s Sunday column was based on that interview and contains the following pertinent passage, on the subject of married couples in comedy:
But they still don’t have a lot of company among married comedians. “There’s a few out there,” he says, “but they seem curiously reluctant to … ”
“Say they’re married,” she adds, finishing a sentence in the way long-married couples do. “(Promoters) tend to devalue the female half of the couple.”
Promoters, readers, audiences– all tend to devalue the female half of the couple.
And we’re not whining. It is what it is. And it certainly has shaped how we’ve dealt with business and work. And we certainly understand how other couples seek to build a wall between their respective careers (usually at the insistence of the female half of the partnership).
But we’ve embraced it. For a time– back in 1988 or 1989, we strove to make it clear that we were separate entities, that we didn’t have to be booked together, etc. But, no matter how hard we tried, the message didn’t get through. We eventually rolled over. Now, we’ve totally given up and given in. And now, it’s on a billboard!
We especially like the billboard below, in the distance, that says, “Divorce Custody!” (It’s readable on larger versions of the pic, trust us!)
WCVB, Boston’s Channel 5, has an account of the arrest of Erica Porzio, a 24-year-old ball of fire from Revere who assaulted veteran Boston comic Steve Sweeney for remarks Sweeney made during his show Saturday night at the Giggles comedy club in Saugus.
Sweeney told police he was talking to friends between shows when a woman threw a glass of beer at him.
Police arrested Erica F. Porzio, 24, of Revere, who they charged not only with assaulting Sweeney, but also the club’s owner, Steven Castraberti, who suffered a broken finger when he said he tried to restrain her.
Sweeney said he was approached by Porzio who told him she was offended by a comment he made concerning her sexuality during the show.
Porzio’s father said Sweeney made derogatory remarks about her off stage, not during his comedy routine.
That last bit is probably horse manure– most likely Porzio’s father trying to throw gasoline on the fire. We believe Sweeney’s account. Porzio must have been hopping mad–she threw the entire drink, glass and all– not just the beer!
Audience members occasionally get steamed, but they rarely wait around and get physical. We’re kind of suprised it doesn’t happen more often. Usually, though, they just leave… or get tossed out.
The Female Half does a pre-emptive strike and tries to nip such behavior in the bud– at the end of her set (in which she often busts balls), she gets the audience to applaud for those whom she may have abused and says that taking a joke “is a sign of good character.” (Thereafter, anyone who chooses to jump bad is admitting that he has bad character… and who wants to do that?)
Of course, dealing with a heckler (or a drunken heckler) is a whole different ballgame… especially if the comic manages to get the better of the heckler– and get the entire room to laugh. Ouch! Every so often, that humiliation (abetted by alcohol) will elicit a response like the one above.
The most shocking part is that it happened “between shows!” It wasn’t even the second show! It’s unusual for someone to get that worked up on the first show Saturday!
It’s even more astonishing that anyone would tangle with a Boston comic! If she had done that in the 80s, she’d be in a full body cast right now.
H/T to Saad!
Since we’re headlining at Big Al’s this month a the Orleans (and since we didn’t have a show on Sunday night), we managed to jiggle a few connections and get comped into Don Rickles at the Orleans Showroom last night.
That’s right. We saw Don Rickles. We know that thousands of people have seen Rickles over his 63 years, but we haven’t seen him yet! And we think it is incumbent upon every standup comic to see as many of the masters as he/she can.
And what made it twelve times cooler was seeing him in Vegas! With a full orchestra! And a packed house!
It’s been quite a year for us– we saw Shecky Greene at the Southpoint in April on his birthday weekend. And now we saw Rickles!
We dig the mid-century caricature that loomed over the stage before showtime. (We’re pretty sure it’s mid-century since he’s depicted as having hair!)
The kind of comedy that Rickles purveys (and that Greene purveys) is going to die with them. It’s “a little song, a little dance” and no one– NO one– is keeping the tradition up. We’re not insisting for a minute that anyone should incorporate the soft-shoe into his act. We watch these guys do what they do and we know that no one will carry on the tradition. So we are nostalgic (“A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past”) and as we watch, we understand that what we’re witnessing will not be around– except via video or film.
Rickles was rickety. But his enthusiasm for performing is not dampened. His interaction with the band (especially the musical director who acted as his ultimate straight man) was hysterical. And it was a joy to watch him deliver some of his more pointed lines– such confidence and such a raucous response from the audience!
It was a thrill to see the legend after having grown up watching him on the small screen.
He’s coming back in March.
Let’s crack open a bottle of Gnarly Head Cab and upload a couple of posts!
Have you seen Comedy Shop? It’s hosted by Norm Crosby. It pops up on Sunday nights on TWO stations around here! KGNG (or “King Kong Broadcasting!”) is Channel 47 here in Las Vegas. They spray EIGHT subchannels of quirky television from a transmitter high atop Black Mountain, over in Henderson.
KGNG runs back-to-back half-hour episodes of Comedy Shop on channel 47.4 (RTVNET) and 47.6 (MYFAMILY) every Sunday night from 6 to 7 PM. Our sorry-ass antenna picks them both up.
We don’t have cable. We don’t have time to watch that much television. (Honest! We are usually skeptical of anti-TV types… their excuses for not having/watching a television usually ring hollow or are calculated to somehow get across the message that they are superior and those who wallow in the glow of the “idiot box” are giving into baser instincts. We don’t play that. We’ve considered subscribing to cable or satellite or some other sort of paid television service. For a while, we had Netflix– but we weren’t even able to consume enough of their service to make it worth even that paltry fee! We analogize our decision thusly: It would be like buying ten loaves of bread per month and only eating two or three slices out of each loaf.)
Comedy Shop is variously described, depending on which website you go to, as having started in 1978 or 1979. They all agree that it died in 1981. Just in time for the explosion of comedy! (Perhaps Comedy Shop was some sort of cultural blasting cap.)
We each have our various excuses for missing the show on its first go-round. But we must say that it’s fascinating viewing this time around!
Last night, while preparing to go see Don Rickles at the Orleans Showroom, we ping-ponged back and forth between 47.4 and 47.6 to catch a wild variety of comedians and sample a slice of late-70s, pre-boom comedy.
Slappy White, Lenny Schultz, Shelley Berman, Dave Tyree, Murray Langston, Jimmy Aleck, Ed Bluestone, Bowser… and that was only in the space of about 20 minutes. We note that Buddy Hackett also made an appearance. And, of course, the proceedings were hosted by Crosby.
At times, on certain episodes, it seems as though the show is taped in an empty studio with bizarre, grainy 70s-style audience pan-shots shoehorned in to make it look good. (Lots of flamboyant hair, lots of plaid, some vests, some really horrendous Italian designer-framed glasses.) Some episodes clearly were taped in front of a studio audience– as evidenced by some folks yelling, “Go crazy, Lenny!” to Lenny Schultz during his set.
of all the comedians we watched last night, we would have to say that Ed Bluestone’s set was the funniest and the set that would hold up today, some 31 years later. Slappy White’s set was pretty solid, too. And he lit up a cigarette! Hey, FCC: KGNG just called and said, “Come get me, bitches!” We’re not sure where Bluestone is these days, as there is scant evidence of him online. He seems to have contributed to National Lampoon a lot in their glory days, but past that, he’s not showing up.
We’ve seen Freddy Roman, Wil Shriner and others on previous episodes. It will be appointment television around here for a while. Or we might just check them all out, serially, on Amazon.com! (It’s available on Netflix and on Amazon.com. We assume that our newly-purchased Amazon Prime membership will entitle us to call them up and watch them for free whenever we have the time and inclination. Right now, though, we’re in the middle of watching all eight seasons of Red Dwarf! Amazon Prime, BTW, is a delightful alternative to Netflix. And you get free Amazon shipping for a year!)
Watching Comedy Shop is like cracking open a time capsule. It’s a fascinating look into the American Standup Comedy World just seconds before the BOOM. You can see just who were the go-to comics in the standup cosmosphere in the waning days of the 70s, just before cable and other cultural forces combined to make standup a phenomenon. The old-school guys from the 50s and 50s and 60s appeared alongside some of the up-and-comers who were slugging it out in the newer showcase clubs in NYC and LA at the time. It’s like scanning the Billboard Hot 100 just before the Beatles toured America for the first time.
Seek it out!
Comedian Drew Hastings has decisively won election to mayor of Hillsboro, OH.
With Hillsboro reporting complete, unofficial results, Drew Hastings had 773 votes to 440 for John Levo, a retired banker and former city councilman.
The 57-year-old Hastings moved from Los Angeles to the community 50 miles east of Cincinnati six years ago, buying a cattle farm. He became increasingly involved in the city of 6,600 residents, buying and renovating several downtown buildings.
Congratulations to Hastings, who starts a four-year term in January.
The comedian, who identifies as a libertarian, has been the subject of many an article in the MSM since he announced his intentions to be mayor. The Republic of Columbus, IN, said, “He at times had to fend off criticism of his adult-oriented humor and questions about his motives, such as whether he was seeking publicity for himself or gathering material for new comedy routines.” A piece of cake for a comedian– we’re always having our motives questioned, are we not?
Fans of Hastings (and democracy) can follow his exploits on HillsboroOhio.net.
So, the editors of a French satire mag called Charlie Hebdo were planning to put out an issue that was “guest-edited by Muhammed.” And the front cover would have depicted the prophet with a speech balloon that contained the words “100 coups de fouet, si vous n’etes pas morts de rire,” which translated to English means “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing.”
We say “were planning” and “would have” because someone– no one knows who– firebombed the publication’s offices and destroyed everything inside.
And for good measure, they hacked into the mag’s website and posted, “You keep abusing Islam’s almighty Prophet with disgusting and disgraceful cartoons using excuses of freedom of speech. Be God’s curse upon you!”
Ha! Don’t you love that? ”Freedom of speech” is an “excuse!”
Well, predictably, the outrage has been swift and universal.
Er… except for one dude at some obscure magazine named “TIME.” (Remember TIME? It’s still around, still publishing. Someone must still be reading it.)
Bruce Crumley, TIME’s Paris bureau chief, maintains on his TIME blog that Charlie Hebdo is “no free speech martyr,” then says:
Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile. Baiting extremists isn’t bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response– however illegitimate– is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless: it’s pointlessly all about you.
Charlie Hebdo, the file’s URL informs us, “is a victim of its own obnoxious islamaphobia.”
The paper’s satire is characterized as “antics” which are “futile and childish.” Not only that, but “they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists” that occurred this week.
Can you imagine Crumley and other like-minded individuals being so eager to excuse violent behavior from any other group?
We’re defending Charlie Hebdo’s satire even though we haven’t read it… and we can’t understand French even if we had read it.
And folks like Crumley are condemning it without having read it. This doesn’t stop him from calling Charlie Hebdo’s parody “idiotic,” “stupid and totally unnecessary” and “offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient.” (All words which can handily describe Crumley and his commentary!)
The BBC ran an interesting piece on the French satire mag’s lineage and ancestors and sought to place Charlie Hebdo in the context of that country’s history.
Drawing on France’s strong tradition of bandes dessinees [comic strips], cartoons and caricatures are Charlie-Hebdo’s defining feature. Over the years, it has printed examples which make today’s representations of Muhammad look like illustrations from a children’s book.
Police would be shown holding the dripping heads of immigrants; there would be masturbating nuns; popes wearing condoms– anything to make a point.
So today when the paper’s staff say there is nothing unusually provocative about the Charia Hebdo issue– with its front-page cartoon of ‘guest-editor’ Muhammad– they are being perfectly truthful.
The only difference is their choice of target.
And in this case, the target decided to respond using some bottles, a few rags and a liter or two of “petrol.”
And some folks are all right with that.
That would be Big Al himself, on the right. (We assume he’s “Big Al.” We also assume that’s short for “Big Alligator.” Perhaps we assume too much.) Al is in keeping with the mardi gras theme of the Orleans. New Orleans is one of those rare places where one can both eat and be eaten by an alligator. Or so we are constantly reminded.
The marquee is giant. And employs both an electronic screen and elaborate, kinetic neon. Neon is getting rarer and rarer in this town and that’s a pity. The Orleans sign towers perhaps 50 or 60 feet over Tropicana Avenue. It is a marvelous throwback to the pre-Wynn era, before multi-colored neon gave way to computer-controlled LED’s.
We hit the Big Al’s open mike last night because it occurred to us that we hadn’t once set foot on the stage that would be our home for the next four weekends (with the exception of a brief photo shoot a few weeks ago– see below).
We’re excited about “Mr. and Mrs. Comedy!” (And that label is a choice that we made. It’s not pretentious in the least. It’s… ironic! Kinda. Old-school, maybe. Vegas-y, perhaps. No other comedy couple has laid claim to the title. And no other comedy couple has written a book about comedy. Or written about standup in a high-profile way for more than a decade. Besides, if you stand in the Orleans parking lot long enough, the slide touting our engagement is replaced by one that displays Don Rickles, who is known as “Mr. Warmth.” Folks get sarcasm and irony around here. Or they don’t. That’s the beauty of Vegas. Either folks enjoy the entertainment in a literal way or, if they choose, in an ironic way. We suppose it depends on where you’re coming from– literally and figuratively! Oddly, the folks who most often seem to fail to grasp that are in the entertainment media.)
Big Al seems to be conducting a hold-up using a microphone as a fake gun. The Female Half seems genuinely startled. ”Don’t tase me, Bro!”
Entertainment Weekly, whose website has the unfortunate name of EW.com, published a bit of fluff in the guise of a blog post called “Poll: Who’s your favorite stand-up comic of all time?” by Aly Semigran.
As any entertainer will attest, making someone laugh is always harder than making someone cry. It takes an entirely different skill set and taps into an entirely different, and arguably, more complicated psyche….
Then again, having to choose your favorite stand-up comic of all-time might be just as difficult a task.
Some choices are then laid out (tough choices, it says!) and a few clips are offered to get the brain thinking of standup comedy. Then the readers are invited to submit their fave. It’s an attempt to get some of that interactivity going between EW and its readers.
It’s always good to see comics getting their due. Not a harsh word in the entire piece. And the various modes of comedy are actually presented as (possibly) equivalent! And that comedy might be subjective!
It got us to thinking about our “Comic of the Millennium” poll from late 1999 (the first year for SHECKYmagazine.com) We, too, wanted to create some of that sweet interactivity and we got some interesting commentary from our readers. The winners of the poll in order:
- 1. Richard Pryor
- 2. George Carlin
- 3. Lenny Bruce
- 4. Bill Cosby
- 5. Henny Youngman
- 6. Jerry Seinfeld
- 7. Milton Berle
- 8. Steven Wright
- 9. George Burns
- 10. Shecky Greene
We also ran some reader comments in which folks nominated such comics as Sam Kinison, Woody Allen, Chris Rock and Lord Buckley. We even received a lengthy argument for Mark Twain as COTM, from none other than A. Whitney Brown (who also nominated Shakespeare and Herodotus)!
We got to thinking about who would make the list if we were to conduct a similar poll in 2011, 12 years later. And we theorize that at least half of 1999′s top ten wouldn’t make it onto the 2011 list. We can’t imagine that our present-day readers– far greater in number than we had back then– would vote in such a way as to place Berle, Youngman, Burns or, sadly, Shecky Greene in the top ten. Indeed, they might even leave out Wright or Seinfeld.
This isn’t so much indicative of a change in the size of our readership or demographics as much as it is indicative of a vast change in the standup landscape over the past decade-plus. In a relatively short time, the standup business has matured and mushroomed and given birth to a couple dozen comedy “stars” that seem to have captured the fancy of a significant numbers of fans and comedians.
Or we could be completely wrong.
There’s an article behind the NYT paywall that details the mild conflict between folks who want to name a hunk of a street in Morningside Heights after George Carlin and the folks who think it would be a bad thing.
“‘Carlin St.’ Resisted by His Old Church. Was It Something He Said?” is the headline. And the answer, of course, is, “Yes.”
We’re not sure why anyone is surprised that the Corpus Christi School (Carlin’s grade school on 121st St.) would oppose such an honor. And we’re not sure why anyone would see this opposition not as vindictive but as entirely logical and consistent.
Carlin’s 1972 album “Class Clown,” as the parish pastor Rev. Raymond Rafferty says, “made mockery of Corpus Christi parish and its priests.”
So why would Carlin and his admirers expect the nearby church to roll over and except such an honor in their backyard, even four decades later? Indeed, in light of Carlin’s much later (and much more vitriolic) outright condemnation of the Catholic Church (and of religion in general), why would they expect the church to suddenly look fondly on Carlin? It might be argued that his initial musings on his youth and his Catholic education were “just jokes,” but much of his later speaking and writing on the subject of religion quite often fell afoul of that definition.
We’re also puzzled as to why anyone would think that Carlin would like the idea. It’s the second article that the Times has done on the alleged controversy. There seems to be weak sentiments on both sides. The quotes in the article and the comments that follow it aren’t particularly passionate. And the petition itself has garnered only 2,800 signatures as of early last month. Perhaps the comment from “Mark Ryan” of Long Island put it right when he said, “No, Carlin wouldn’t like the idea of a street being named for him, but it’s not for him, it’s for us.”
There is every chance that that, had it been re-named while Carlin was still alive, he might consider it the highlight of his life. But perhaps not. We’re not going to engage in what Hitchens might call “ghoulish ventriloquism” either way.
But we do wonder why someone who engaged in such controversial (and often purposefully contentious) rhetoric would expect his targets to forgive and forget. Wouldn’t such a capitulation signal that Carlin was wrong? Or perhaps ineffective? And were the church to embrace Carlin– and were Carlin to accept their forgiveness– wouldn’t that mean that both parties were mistaken? Why would “one of the most prolific minds of a lifetime” wish to be controversial in life, but not controversial in death?
When we first start doing standup, we do impolite things, we talk about sex and death and we insult the powerful and the powerless. We do so because… we don’t care about the vast majority of social conventions. The minute we say “fuck” onstage, we pretty much kiss a career in politics goodbye. We relegate ourselves to a substrata of society that really can’t (and often shouldn’t) be taken seriously. At least that’s the way it was in the past. We were outlaws, outcasts, folks who, with rare exceptions (Al Franken?), don’t aspire to power or pine for conventional accolades, nor do we care about such niceties as having streets named after us.
Recently, though, we notice a passive-aggressive attitude on behalf of comics who wish to be taken seriously and who wish to simultaneously take a dump on society and be accepted, even venerated, by that same society. They want to have their cake and eat it too. It’s curious and just a little tiny bit embarrassing.
Sure, we want respect. But we don’t want anyone naming a charter school after us.
There are comedians who do. Bill Cosby would probably welcome such an honor. But Cosby has made a living staying on the sweet, straight and narrow side of the street. And, for the most part, his public life has been exemplary.
But it seems incongruous that any edgy/controversial comics would want or need such validation.
And it’s asking too much of the targets of said comics to sit on their hands while their fellow citizens heap praise upon them and advocate for permanent tributes to them.
We’re not particularly interested in defending the church here, but we do concede that they do have a point. And perhaps, as was said above, “it’s for us.” Some of “us” being the folks who would like to honor Carlin and others who merely wish to stick a thumb in the eye of Corpus Christi Church.
We’re guessing that a compromise will be reached. A statue? (Probably not, too costly.) A plaque on the building where Carlin was raised? A historical marker? That sounds more likely.
H/T to FOS Terry Reilly!
Video contests are in the air. We got two emails soliciting emails for contests. And there’s cash prizes if your video is chosen. And contest organizers thought our readers were logical places to go for contestants.
The first one is from the folks who promote recycling through America Recycles Day. “So help us show that “recycling is no joke” by participating in the first-ever America Recycles Day (ARD) video contest, open to contestants of all ages. You’ll be eligible to win $1,000 if you make the judges (and the public) laugh.” The details:
The video contest runs through the extended deadline of October 28, 2011. Submissions can be anything ranging from a one-liner, to a comic strip or skit about recycling, but the video must show recycling in a positive, humorous manner. The video needs to be uploaded to the ARD YouTube page by October. 28, 2011, as a response to a short video that explains the competition. The ARD Video Committee will vote on the top 10 winners and upload them to a YouTube playlist on our ARD page by November. 8, 2011. During the following week, the public will pick the winning videos by clicking the “like” button associated with their favorite video. Voting ends on America Recycles Day. Full rules found here.
Extended deadline? You know what that means (probably)– not that many folks entered… and you know what that means– a better chance of winning!
The other contest involves “a group of leading national advertisers whose goal is to provide consumers with entertainment options the entire family can watch.” They’re called Alliance for Family Entertainment and they’re looking for a family-friendly script.
I’m reaching out to you on behalf of the ANA Alliance for Family Entertainment (AFE) to let you know about a new national writing contest to find the next great story featuring the modern family. From October 5th – 28th, aspiring writers can submit an original half-hour comedy format script into the Search for America’s Newest Comedy Writer Contest for the opportunity to win $5,000.00 and receive creative guidance and direct input from American film and television producer, John Wells, best known for his role as executive producer of the television series ER, Third Watch and The West Wing among others.
I know a lot of talented comics read your site and you probably know of a few folks who may be sitting on a winning screenplay. If so, we’d appreciate any help you can provide in getting the word out about the opportunity, through your site, Facebook page or Twitter handle – submissions are currently being accepted at www.comedywritercontest.com
Make us proud, readers.
This is fun! We’ve gotten a grand total of four customer reviews on the Amazon.com site. The first two were lovely, five-star assessments of the book. We didn’t talk about those publicly. That’s not our style. We brag only on rare occasions. We let the upward thumbs speak for themselves.
The fun part comes when the negative reviews come in!
We know– we said we were probably not going to trash every bad review we got… but we left ourselves an out! (“We aren’t going to fisk every review of the book…”) And this one is so delicious that we couldn’t pass it up! Herewith, agnew.peter’s review of “The Comedy Bible: The Complete Resource for Aspiring Comedians” in its entirety:
Anybody could write a book like this and, contrary to the title – it will not help the aspiring comedian in the slightest. Please – if you are considering a career in comedy – spend your money on Judy Carter’s bible – a robust and legitimate piece of work. ….unless of course you need to read drivel like: “Punch Line: Position this at the end of your joke.”
This is probably the worst book I have ever purchased. The (cruel) joke is on me! and anyone else foolish enough to purchase this so-called book.
“Anybody could write a book like this?” Yipe! We’ll listen to legitimate criticism, but that’s just childish.
And we don’t think it’s catty to say that agnew.peter– were he commissioned to write a book like this– would have a rough time of it. After all, he refers to our book as “this so-called book.” Uh… the last time we checked, it had pages, words and a cover. No one would dispute that it’s a book. (And anyone who uses this tired rhetorical gesture has some cajones writing such a harsh review.)
Agnew.peter says our book, “will not help the aspiring comedian in the slightest,” and his main complaint seems to be that we offer “drivel”– or information that is so basic as to be useless. We suspect that agnew.peter hasn’t hung around an open mike lately. Or conducted a comedy seminar for aspiring comedians. These are things that we’ve been doing for 25 years.
Folks who aspire to do standup– or who aspire to give their nascent career a kick in the pants– quite often have gaping holes in their knowledge of standup. We are often aghast at some of the questions that up-and-coming comedians ask us. (Of course, we quickly suppress our horror and patiently attempt to answer any and all questions, for we recall all too vividly that time when we knew NOTHING about standup.)
Agnew.peter makes the very basic mistake of not remembering. It’s like not failing to recall that time when you possessed absolutely none of the skills necessary to drive a car. The first time behind the wheel is intimidating. The prospect of piloting 2,000 lbs. of steel and glass seems near impossible. Fast-forward a few months and you’re cruising down the street, steering with one index finger and trying to tune in your favorite station. After a decade or three, you can only recall those initial, sweaty driving attempts with great effort.
But we remember. That’s why we offer advice like “Put the punchline at the end of the joke,” we’re speaking to someone who hasn’t the faintest notion of how to approach the art of joke-telling. There are probably novices who have been performing at open mikes for months or years who haven’t figured out that the reason they aren’t getting a laugh (or the laugh that they might) is because they’ve consistently failed to put the punchline at the end of the joke. It is for them that we’ve included such “drivel.”
As for agnew.peter’s advice to purchase a book by a rival author instead of ours, we say, “Buy them both!” You’ll get free shipping and you’ll be out a total of $26.51! In spite of the claims made by their respective titles (“Ultimate” and “Complete”), neither book is comprehensive, so buying and reading both would probably make for a better-informed (and not that much broker) student of comedy.
We’re surprised by the emotion contained in the title of the review– “Utter garbage– How to write a scam book”– but we understand how passionate people can get about comedy. And we understand just how excited people get when they’re granted the “privilege” of reviewing someone else’s work.
As for calling our book a “scam,” we would say that calling our book a “dishonest scheme” or a “fraud” (both basic definitions of the word “scam”) overstates things and strains credulity. (Ask anyone who’s been ripped off by Bernie Madoff if buying our book– for the grand total of $15.63– is anywhere close to being a scam.)
We may sound defensive, but we’re not. We’re slightly befuddled that someone could read a 45,000-word book and fixate on one, short tidbit in order to condemn the entire work. There’s a lot of handy, interesting information in the book and it’s fairly wide-ranging. And, like we’ve already said, we didn’t choose the title… or the sub-title.
And, just as it might behoove a 40-year driver to take a refresher course in driving, it might be a good idea for a professional comic to browse through a book like ours to recall long-dormant fears, read a new take on hecklers or maybe pick up some new knowledge that puts our profession in an historical context.
When turned in the final chapter, we said privately that folks are either going to either love it or hate it. Force of habit, we suppose– folks have either loved SHECKYmagazine.com or hated it and folks have either loved our standup or hated it. And that’s pretty much how it’s breaking down with the book. Five-stars followed by one-star.
We suppose that it’s not such a bad thing that one’s work should evoke such extremes. Perhaps it’s an indication that we’re doing something right.
Being on the road isn’t the ordeal it used to be. With email, internet access, smart phones, Kinko’s, fax machines (Remember them? We’ve actually been required to fax something in the past year!), digital cameras and Flip cams, the miles between where you are and where you live don’t matter as much as they once did. Once in a while, however, even with all the technology, a jam occurs.
We were staying at the Nassau Inn in Wildwood Crest, NJ, last week, laying low between engagements here on the east coast, when we got an email from Vegas saying that the pics we had provided to the folks at the Orleans (for use in “collateral material” to promote our upcoming monthlong gig there) were unusable. Something about having an inadequately high resolution. What to do? The deadline for the pics was near, so there was no way we could be home to dig up proper pics, so…
We figured we had three options, with a deadline approaching in hours: 1) Use the pics, no matter how lo-res they might be, 2) Go to a Walmart Portrait center and have “formal portraits” taken, 2a) find a local photographer and studio or 3) Use our Fuji FinePix S2950 “bridge” camera to shoot some sort of provisional headshots, using the built-in flash and/or existing light. The pics would be used for everything from table tents to signs over the slot machines and billboards, so we were panicked
We opted for number three.
Wildwood in the off-season is… abandoned. So much so that it seems eerie. In fact, for the first four days of our stay at the Nassau, we were the only occupants. Friday saw an influx of visitors, but the town was still pretty much empty. So we had our pick of any one of dozens of walls to use as backdrops, many of them painted in muted, mid-century groovy colors and some having offbeat textures. After a hurried survey of websites offering portrait-taking tips (“shoot in open shade,” “clouds make a good softbox,” “shoot with the sun at your back… unless the sun’s behind a cloud,” etc.), we set out to find the perfect backdrop.
We shot TFHOTS against an aqua wall, but the exiting storm front kicked up winds that made like an eggbeater on her carefully arranged hair. When a light rain started to fall, we retreated back to the Nassau to wait for the sun to reappear.
When the clouds moved on, TFHOTS suggested we use the front door of our unit as a backdrop (see below). She also suggested we both wear black-and-white clothing, so that, together with the backdrop, the pics would be a matching set.
Since we had only recently purchased the Fuji, we were not as familiar with the equipment as we would have liked. We downloaded the owner’s manual from the Fuji site, skimmed the important parts, and, after we gave the Fuji tech support line a call and got the answers to a couple of pertinent questions, we were ready to shoot.
Brian: f-stop: 4.2, 1/50 sec., ISO-200 and no flash. Traci: f-stop: 5, 1/30 sec, ISO-200 and no flash. We FTP’ed the files to up to the folks in Vegas and eventually got word that the images would be included in all the necessary materials.
Are we 100 per cent happy with the results? No. But it was crucial that we provide some sort of workable image. And, considering that we did so with little notice and a looming deadline, we think that the final result was pretty good. Had it been 1999, we would have been totally screwed.
The folks on Huffington Post are huffing and puffing about an article that appeared on the Fox News website. They’re mainly upset because the author(ess) supposedly compared Janeane Garofalo to Chris Farley.
Of course the author(ess) did nothing of the kind.
But the folks at HuffPo never let the facts get in the way of a good huff. It’s in the title of the website, after all.
The article, by someone (or something– we’re not sure it’s actually written by a human being, as it seems to be written by some sort of program that has been fed lots of cliched information, hinky data and ludicrous aphorisms and designed to spit out fluffy and seemingly thoughtful pop culture articles) named “Holly McKay” (a likely name) proposes that funny females (alliteration is a big part of the program!) are “hot” now! Citing Anna Faris, Mila Kunis and Olivia Munn, they conclude that gals who are in the laff biz “all combine funny bones with bangin’ bodies.”
Eye candy is supplied by a photo of Carrie Keagan (who?), pictured in her boyfriend’s oxford shirt, lounging (still in heels!) next to… BREAKFAST! I think you know what we mean!
(Keagan turns out to be the main source of quotes for the story, so we figure the piece was engineered by her handlers at VH-1– where she’s a host of “ultra-edgy morning entertainment show ‘Big Morning Buzz,.”)
Regardless of the genesis of this sorry story, it seeks to hang its hook on this notion (that’s being echoed elsewhere) that all of a sudden, funny females can be sexy and– why stop there– funny females MUST be sexy.
The argument is bolstered by numerous examples of comedic actresses and “presenters,” but none (or nearly none) are standup comics. Which is curious.
And the trend is not new! No! it comes from way back. Let’s listen:
But Keagan et al didn’t come out of nowhere. Some of our favorite “old-skool” sitcom stars like Jennifer Aniston, Jane Krakowski and Julia Louis-Dreyfus have transformed themselves in recent years from somewhat awkward to stylish sex symbols.
Wow! How far back will they go to prove their point? As far back as Jennifer Aniston!
There have has always been a handful of funny women with smokin’ hot bods studding our pop culture landscape.
Conversation overheard on the internet, in a bar, in a magazine, in church: “Who would you rather bang? Ginger or MaryAnn?”
Has Holly McKay ever seen any footage of Lucille Ball in her early movie career?
What about Carol Wayne? What about Loni Anderson? What about Judy Holliday? What about Mae West, ferchrissakes?
One has to ignore an awful lot of cinema and television history to concoct a ridiculous story like this one.
And what about this charge that Garofalo was compared to Chris Farley? Well, it’s goofy. They quoted from “entertainment expert Patrick Wanis,” who said that “funny women who aren’t all that sexy may struggle in the new comedy landscape,” and that:
Rosie O’Donnell and Janeane Garofalo will be relegated to playing the female versions of Chris Farley.
Which is just the good doctor’s way of saying that Garofalo and O’Donnell will be playing the funny, unattractive, non-threatening roles in future funny pics.
But… waitaminute… what about Melissa McCarthy? She’s the co-lead on Mike & Molly and the most talked about cast member of “Bridesmaids?” Wasn’t that the picture that grossed nearly $300 million dollars? (And will probably make twice that in DVD sales?) She hardly has a “bangin’ body!”
The other huge gaffe in this article is the uncomfortable fact that the only women they cite as “unattractive” are mainly standup comics, known primarily for their prowess onstage and not really notable for their box office drawing power. It’s kind of incongruous (and more than a little tawdry… catty, maybe!) to drag them into this discussion. Really: they bring them in just to make some sort of awful, tenuous point.
How about, instead of writing some sort of fragile, slapped-together article about attractive, funny women are starring in film or TV (a “new” phenomenon since… sound was introduced… maybe earlier), why not write an article about how there is a crop of funny, hot, sexy standup comedians?
There have been attractive women in standup for quite some time now. But they always played down their “assets.” But these days there is no shortage of funny women who are hot and not the least bit apologetic.
Rhonda Shear was alone for a while. She was eventually joined by others. To the point where we are awash in competent, wickedly funny, attractive standup comics who are sexy in obvious and not-so-obvious ways.
This myth that a hot gal couldn’t elicit laughs has long been demolished in the theater, in the movies and on the telly. But the meme has always has persisted that a pretty woman couldn’t excel at standup. Even that one’s been shattered. And largely ignored.
Should any of us consider a woman’s looks when deciding on whether or not to laugh at her standup? Certainly not. But there are folks out there who can’t get over it– Audience members, people in charge and others. But they will get over it. And, after a while, a hot babe soliciting laughs won’t seem odd any more.
But hot-looking women in film and television a new trend? Don’t make us laugh.
Isn’t the chick on VH-1– by herself– enough of a story? It’s embarrassing when they try to make larger points by dragging in such icons as Jennifer Aniston and PhD Patrick Wanis but only end up looking foolish.
Mike DeStefano passed away on March 6 of this year, of a heart attack, at the age of 43. Some of his friends will get together next month to remember him.
Billed as “An all-star tribute honoring the late Mike DeStefano,” Colin Quinn, Robert Kelly, Rich Vos, Bonnie McFarlane, Eugene Mirman and Roy Wood, Jr. are scheduled to perform Wednesday, November 9th at 8PM at TRIBECA Performing Arts Center in New York City.
It’s presented by CringeHumor.net. Hit their website for further details.
That’s the “Theater Arts” section of the Barnes & Noble in the Summerlin section of Las Vegas. We trekked up there this afternoon to make sure our book was properly displayed. The store was in disarray! They were in the process of moving entire sections to new locations.
In spite of that, we were thrilled when a sales associate located our book and asked us if we’d like to purchase it. “No…” we said. “We’re the authors!” Hey! That was fun! Let’s go to the other B & N on the other side of town and do the same thing! Nah. Enough for one day.
We hear from a local comic that the other location was fresh out… or they couldn’t find it. (Not to worry, he’ll just order one on Amazon.com!) It would not be surprising if we learned they were sold out, considering that they’ll probably only stock one or two initially– then carry more as reviews and other press mentions drive customers. At least it is hoped.
In this day and age, it’s not so important to have all that many in stock, what with online orders and inexpensive shipping and Amazon Prime.
It’s significant that the first thing one encounters when entering this particular B & N is a giant display for the Nook, B & N’s color e-book reader. Too little, too late? We shall see.
Click on the above pic to be taken to the Amazon.com page where you can purchase our book! (And it’s a special URL, because when you click on it, Amazon throws a few pennies our way!)
Greetings, SHECKYmagazine.com readers, regulars, first-timers, robots, all!
It’s Tuesday, Sept. 27. Which means that our book will be available soon… like when the book retailers open their doors on Saturday morning, October 1. We’re all tingly, sorta. We’re not gonna get rich off this book. But we are thrilled that we’ll be immortalized via the printed word, in a book. (Although we hearken back to those articles we read in Wired and other publications that remind us that not even DVD’s or CD’s or even magnetic hard drives are permanent… or immortal. Whatever! It’s immortal enough for us!)
Have we not always endeavored to bring you in on our various adventures? Have we not always tried to give you a bizarre, ringside seat at the oddball experiences that we’ve encountered? Well, maybe we’ll do the same with having our name on a book. A hardback, tangible early 21st century, may-be-one-of-the-last hard copy books about standup ever published through conventional, Gutenberg-style, printed-on-a-page, not-an-Ebook, hold-it-in-your-hands, not-vanity-press-generated book. You can read this in the bathroom. It’s perfect for the e coli-brary™.
Our publishers– both here in North America and in London– have, in their employ, a cadre of decent, sincere people who have been, for some time now, engaged in laying the groundwork for a media blitz– centered on our book– that will have tongues wagging from from Sydney to Mumbai, from London, Ontario, to London, England, from Seattle to Sea World.
But we’ve been doing some grassroots promo of our own, shoving the book in the faces of all whom we encounter and creating press releases and websites and pestering various local, national and international media figures to mention our tome in their ever-contracting “newshole.”
We’re proud of the one-sheets we’ve concocted to promote the book. But we figured we’d need something less conventional, less vanilla to bring the word to our comedy brethren and their business cohort.
So… we climbed onboard the “Downfall Parody” bandwagon!
CAUTION: This video may images too strong for children and pets!
Last week, we got a Google Alert saying that our book had been reviewed…
Our book got its first review. At least we think it’s the first one. It’s by Steve Bennett, the Big Cheese over at Chortle (“The UK Comedy Guide”). He got a copy of our book after we asked/told the folks in the offices of the London publisher of our book– Quintet Publishing– to send a copy over to the folks at Chortle. After all, we’re sure that if Bennett had written a book about standup, he’d no doubt make extra sure that the folks at SHECKYmagazine.com got a copy for review.
The first thing we learned was that our book is called “Comedy Techniques” in the UK! And it has a different cover! Fancy that! We knew the book was going to be distributed worldwide, in different languages, but the idea of different covers or titles took us completely by surprise! (And are they so hung up on religion over there that the word “bible” in the title would tank sales?)
The second thing we learned is that “Comedy Techniques” is an inappropriate title for our book. As is “The Comedy Bible.” But we didn’t choose either one.
The third thing we learned is that it is exceptionally difficult to refrain from “fisking” a review of your book. (“Fisking” is internet slang. It’s a “point-by-point refutation of a blog entry or news story that highlights perceived errors, or disputes the analysis in a statement, article, or essay.” It’s named after an English journalist named Robert Fisk, whose dispatches from the Middle East were ruthlessly torn to shreds, in line-by-line analyses, by bloggers back at the beginning of the last decade.)
Don’t get us wrong. The review isn’t negative. But it’s not a glowing review, either. Folks are entitled to their opinions. (Which is why we made a point of getting a copy to Mr. Bennett in the first place.) And don’t get us wrong: We aren’t going to fisk every review of the book… in fact the following might as close as we come to doing so ever again! But there are some odd bits that we can’t let pass.
The opening line:
Comedy Techniques make the bold promise: ‘From improv to stand-up, and from satire to slapstick, here’s an essential guide to get yourself a cult following or mainstream success.’
Well… we didn’t actually make that “bold promise.” The publisher did. We suspect that this is the first of many “bold promises” that we’ll have to answer for. And we suppose that, after a while, we’ll give up. There are two kinds of people in this world: Those that believe all the dopey things that publishers say on a dust jacket or in a press release and those that realize that publishers say all kinds of dopey things on dust jackets and press releases that are not to be believed.
Bennett goes on to say:
It’s more of a Comedy 101, explaining the fundamentals of the art to an almost remedial level. An introduction might be a better description than the ‘resource’ it claims.
And we are okay with that. That is precisely what we thought. We winced when it was dubbed a “complete resource.” It is, after all, only 256 pages. But it is a tremendous introduction. And, while we don’t, as Mr. Bennett rightly points out, “delve too deep,” we nonetheless deliver a basic book on standup in an entertaining fashion. And we provide a lot of basic info, we daresay, in a far more entertaining fashion than it has been delivered in countless other books in the genre.
After a few paragraphs of mild snark, Bennett says:
Although basic, the advice offered by McKim and Skene – both American comedians – is pertinent and reliable. possibly because they’ve merely consolidated information that’s already widely available, not least from online comedy resources where comics hang out, such as Chortle or their own long-running blog, Shecky.
Here we have our usable, excerptable meme-let!
“The advice offered by McKim and Skene… is pertinent and reliable!” Says Chortle.co.uk
We’ll take it! (It’s not unlike the other meme-let that we’ve beaten to death– and rightfully so: USA Today calls SHECKYmagazine “charming, sincere and helpful!”)
Perhaps the review is “saved” by the very last lines:
The book’s most useful advice is surely to just get on and do it: start writing or performing without delay. For the aspiring comic, Comedy Techniques is probably another displacement activity delaying that vital day of action.
Perhaps not. When we were writing the book we imagined our reader countless times. We tried to consider nearly every statement through the eyes of the title’s aspiring comedian. We knew that we were creating a book that advised him or her to “just get on and do it: start writing or performing without delay,” as Mr. Bennett has so correctly discerned. In fact, in the press for the book, we’ve repeatedly said and written that the book is not so much a “how-to” as a “why-to.” We’ve tried to set the reader on a path to determining exactly why he/she wants to do comedy and we’ve been careful to refrain from any specific advice. We’ve sought to give that small push, that slightest bit of encouragement to someone thinking about trying standup. We tried to say that what’s being contemplated isn’t crazy, but could be quite fun and quite illuminating. So often the tone of books and articles that address the wanna-be comic on the precipice are either cavalier (“Give it a try! It’ll be great!”) or unnecessarily ominous (“Be prepared! Otherwise you’ll bomb and embarass yourself!) or overly technical. And, of course, no matter the tone of a book, it can always be a “displacement activity.” But we’d like to think that ours avoids being that.
We got an email here at SHECKYmagazine.com HQ, from “Neil.” He said:
Everything I read about learning, working in comedy and “how it’s done” makes my asshole squinch up and a voice booms in my head: “You, as you suspected, are worthless. Stop dreaming and pursue that marketing career.” I haven’t even gotten up for the first time yet and I feel like I’ll never have what it takes. I’m also getting a late start at 40. Any tips on how to stop feeling like such a turd sandwich? Thanks.
Are you in luck! We have a whole book full of tips! It’s our book! It’s called “The Comedy Bible: The Complete Resource For Aspiring Comedians!” (And it’s available NOW on Amazon.com by clicking here!)
Of course, if you can wait a few days, it’ll be in the stores (the bookstores, or what’s left of them) on October 1! That’s Saturday.
When you get the book, read it all. But pay particular attention to Chapter 4, the one called “Standup Preparation.” It’s probably the one that is most important to you and the one that may result in you shedding your reservations and hopping up onto that stage for the first time. Good luck!
The winner is in the middle. It’s Ryan Dalton standing behind the “won’t fit in the overhead compartment”-sized trophy. On his right (our left) is Landry, who came in second in the balloting. On his left (our right) is Dave Williamson, who came in third. And that is, quite possibly, the worst picture ever taken of Williamson. (We know it’s not our Fuji FinePix S2950, because other pics, taken over our shoulder with other cameras produced the same result. Ambient lighting? Temporary demonic possession?)
Hey! Look who stopped by! It’s Shang! (Didn’t he usta be Shang Forbes? He dropped the surname when it was no longer useful.) From left to right: Landry, Shang, Corey Manning. Two one-named comics with one two-named comic! What IS Landry doing? (Looks to us like he’s trying to scissor off Shang’s nipple… or taser it. “Don’t taser my boob, bro!”)
All right, then. In the previous post, we alluded to the three-day gap in our WSOC coverage and we promised an explanation. On Monday night, after the dust from the Wildcard shows had settled, The Halves of the Staff dined on steak & eggs over at Mr. Lucky’s in the Hard Rock Hotel. Midway through the meal, The Male Half complained of a headache. We thought nothing of this, as we were dining with Brad Reeder, and, great God almighty, if Brad Reeder doesn’t give one a headache, then who does? (Note to Brad: Let’s put that 2012 date in INK, shall we?) Anyway, about three hours later, The Male Half awoke, sweating, moaning, teeth chattering and complaining about the cold. (It’s in Vegas… the temp is maybe as low as 79 degrees… not a good sign.)
Fast forward a few more hours and TMHOTS is DOWN. A nasty head cold or a “bug” or call it what you like. Dreams of participating in the WSOC golf outing and poker tournament are instantly shattered. Both Halves immediately fret that participation in the WSOC Midnight Bowling outing is out of the question as well. And the seminar that they were scheduled to conduct on Friday at 11 AM is in jeopardy.
TFMHOTS was booked all week at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club making it devilishly difficult for her to be over at the Alexis Park for much of the week’s festivities. And on Tuesday, she was dealt a temporary career blow that dampened her spirits and made it near impossible for her to hang out with a bunch of comedians who had something resembling hope. Which is why the beginning of their seminar (which they eventually conducted when The Male Half rallied) kicked off with The Female Half saying, “This week, I hate comedy…”
But this isn’t about us. Correction: this isn’t all about us.
It’s about the 101 comics (and a couple dozen more) who traveled to the desert to participate in the second annual World Series of Comedy– those aforementioned folks in the paragraph above… the ones with all that… hope. Hold on… we have a list around here somewhere… Ah… here it is (Scroll past it for the rest of this posting):
Tom Van Horn
Derrick J. Stroman
Tom E. Morello
Alien Warrior Comedian
Franklin Marshall III
Of course, there’s a lot of hope, because, at the heart of this whole six-day affair, was a contest. And, at the end of that was a winner. One winner. Which means there were 100… uh… “non-winners,” to put it charitably. So, of course, by necessity, there was a lot of dashed hopes. Night number one produced 37 instant “non-winners” in the space of about six hours (see photo of the Wildcard lineup below), as only eight of the 45 wildcard comics survived to perform in the next round.
So, it then becomes a matter of how to deal with that setback in your remaining hours/days in the desert. For some, it’s simple: They fly/drive home the next day and put the whole experience in their rearview mirror. Others hold their head up and dive into the various activities– structured and unstructured, sanctioned and unsanctioned– and make the most of it.
Eric Shantz arrived Monday but wasn’t scheduled to perform until the 7 PM Friday show. He dealt with all that down time by turning his Alexis Park room into a “hospitality suite”– offering beer and a place to commune, commiserate or strategize (depending on your WSOC status at the time). Shantz also cleverly turned the desk in the corner into a “media table” (just like they have at the big-time festivals!) where comics could place a stack of their biz cards or other promo material for others to collect. These parties, we’re told, were lasting until five in the morning. Only occasionally garnering dirty looks from other hotel guests and sporadic visits from hotel security.
We heard tales of bad behavior. We shall refrain from identifying those who engaged in said behavior to spare them any embarrassment… although, after hearing the stories, we doubt they are capable of such feelings as embarrassment or shame. We must point out that, if, out of maybe 200 or more comics, bookers and assorted others in attendance over six days, it’s possible to count the number of incidents or bad actors using only one hand, then this pack of folks did pretty well.
The overall mood was festive. Admittedly, we missed a giant, gaping chunk at the heart of it because of circumstances beyond our control. But, judging by the feedback we got, nearly everyone was satisfied with their experience. Very little disgruntlement, from what we could tell. (And, believe us when we tell you: If anyone attending a conflagration like this one feels hurt or left out or boned– they let EVERYONE know. Negative word travels fast, borne on a river of alcohol and bile. And happy participants constantly check their own mood and temperament to make sure they they, too, are actually happy and not merely doing a good job of convincing themselves that they are. There will always be minor complaints. But organizers– good organizers– always go out of their way to put out any fires, nip any discontent in the bud, quell any minor hassles before they become major headaches. Especially if the complaining is offered in a constructive manner.
Photo credit: Joe Eberle
We eventually conducted our seminar. Perhaps “seminar” is too weighty of a word. It was more like a “chat.” A chat with the authors of “The Comedy Bible: The Complete Resource for Aspiring Comedians.” We originally planned a dash or two of multi-media and a more structured presentation. That all fell apart, though. We rallied, however, and delivered an hourlong melange of confession, griping, advice, Q & A and encouragement, with more than a few hearty laughs. (In fact, a startling number of laughs for 11 AM!) Feedback was wildly positive and the Halves gladly stuck around afterward for the inevitable 45-minute “spillover”– those one-on-one or two- or three-on-one mini-seminars that continue long after the stage lights go out. One attendee said, and we paraphrase, “I learned a lot, but I’m not sure what I learned.” High praise, indeed! We wanted to avoid any pedantry. We sought to entertain, enlighten and provide some perspective for the folks who were, in some cases, traveling one or two thousand miles to upgrade their status in– or at least change their relationship to– the comedy business. Oh… and plug our book.
Our book comes out in six days. Our copy, our only copy… and, for all we know, the only copy in existence… was pawed by a good percentage of the attendees. Of course, that may have had something to do with the fact that we were carrying it with us at all times and we were thrusting into the hands of anyone who faced in our direction. (Not unlike a proud parent who “dazzles” unsuspecting airplane aisle-mates with baby pictures.) Feedback on the book is wildly positive. And we got a lot of inquiries about an autographed copy. We are pondering this and we will announce shortly just how that might come about and how much it might cost. Stay tuned.
Will there be another? Hope so. There’s a “See you next year!” message on the WSOC Facebook page. It takes a mountain of effort to plan an event like the WSOC. And because we moved here in February and hung out a lot (performing and otherwise) at Joe Lowers’ club, we had a front-row seat for a lot of that preparation and planning. It gave us plenty of insight into just how much detail Lowers (and wife Jenny) need to pay attention to. And how many things can go wrong. And how much nerve it takes to convince yourself and others that it’s possible. We imagine that, last night at about 2 AM, it seemed worth all the sweat and the tears. This morning, however, with about 358 days until a possible “next one,” there’s probably some nagging doubt. Of course, tomorrow, with 357 days to go, any doubt will probably vanish. Stay tuned.
BREAKING: The semifinalists just finished competing. In order, they were Alien Warrior, Corey Manning, Denise Ramsden, Landry, Ryan Dalton, Brandon Vestal, Jason Dudey, Dave Williamson.
Advancing to the finals (in just about an hour) will be Landry, Ryan Dalton and Dave Williamson. (That’s the order of finish, by the way.) Congratulations to the winners. And, from what we hear, everyone smoked the room and it was difficult to determine the winners.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
We attended last year’s WSOC as guests of organizer Joe Lowers. We joked at the time that were imported into Las Vegas to act as “observers” during the competition. (We weren’t sure what, if any, our function was… but we had a swell time and our coverage can be found here, here, here.)
We looked forward to this year’s WSOC. After all, we live here in Vegas now. And it would be a good opportunity to try out our FujiFilm FinePix S2950 “bridge” camera.
We hung out at the Alexis Park on Monday night and snapped some pics. We also hung out last night (Friday) when what appeared to be the entire WSOC contingent converged on Big Al’s Comedy Club at the Orleans. Those pics are also below. You may notice that there’s a big gap in there… a lot of stuff missing. We’ll explain that in another post. Meanwhile, enjoy the visuals.
Brad Reeder, Marcus Ryan, Eric Shantz
The Male Half, Will Lopez, The Female Half
Artsy shot… That’s Joe Lowers… singing… a Bob Seeger tune.
The S2950 has a setting for turning beautiful people into oil paintings! In this case, The Female Half and International Sensation Tanyalee Davis!
A panorama shot of the horde at Big Al’s on Friday night.
That’s Edomonton’s Lars Callieou worshipping The Comedy Bible.
It’s Mat Black and Geechy Guy feigning amazement at the Comedy Bible
Lars Callieou, Scott Porteous, Vic Alejandro, Ben Proulx
Ben Proulx finding an inventive way of reading The Comedy Bible
Debbie Praver, Denise Madsen, Jason Dudey
Tanyalee Davis poses with The Comedy Bible as Rob Seven looks on indifferently.
October 1 is the publication date. Of course, it’s available for pre-order now on amazon.com and on BarnesAndNoble.com. We’re excited. And, if you click on the image below, you’ll be able to see a larger image. It’s gorgeous and beautifully designed.
That might be our favorite line from Justin Hegerman‘s appearance on Philadelphia NBC-10′s 10! morning show. Watch the excruciating (and mercifully short) video of his set. He won a contest conducted by local morning radio show host John DeBella and the prize was… this: We must commend host Bill Henley and his co-host (whose name we do not know) for treatign Hegerman with respect and pretty much acknowledging the debacle but minimizing it– in a way they were admitting that the producers screwed up badly by either not approving the material beforehand and making some sort of switch or demanding different material or delaying the appearance.
Hegerman deserves props for plowing through the set. He’s obviously not very experienced, so he dealt with the whole mess with surprising aplomb. (You gotta figure that he wondered if this appearance– on a local television outlet, with only a local viewership– would tank HIS CAREER. Of course, it’s merely a speed bump… a bizarre incident that yields nothing more than a great story to tell– and a great, possibly viral video– and a real “That which does not kill me makes me stronger” experience.) And, of course, he no doubt got some people to come out and see him at Helium that weekend!
We’re reminded of two incidents. The Female Half went on a sixth-grade class trip to the WPVI studios in Philadelphia to witness a broadcast of AM Philadelphia. One of the guests that day was Pincus Leff AKA Pinky Lee. (According to Wikipedia, Leff was “better known as Pinky Lee… an American burlesque comic and host of a children’s television program, The Pinky Lee Show, in the early 1950s.”
Of course, by this time, Lee had been off television for a decade, so the booking was ill-advised. The reaction to Lee’s plaid-clad shtick was less than receptive. (“The kids were fidgety and dismissive,” says the Female Half. “The first thing he did when he sat down to do panel was to complain about having to perform in front of a bunch of kids.” Lee no doubt had hoped that there would have been a studio full of his older fans in the stands.)
The other incident involves The Male Half appearing on KYW-TV’s People Are Talking, then hosted by Maury Povich. A call had gone out through the local comedy community about 48 hours earlier that the producers were seeking local comedians to do two minutes of material to supplement a segment starring Alan King, then on the show to pump a recent project. The Male Half answered the call, did his time, got a half-decent response and stood still while King graciously offered a mini-critique of the set. (It’s still in the press material somewhere– Alan King describes the Male Half as “an egghead comic.”)
So… is anyone here scared of dying? If so, decline the offer from the local television morning show producers. If you’re not scared, set the clock for 4:45 AM, get out your notes, monitor the traffic, get there in plenty of time and prepare for anything. Even dying.
Not on your life.
In an opinion piece on takimag.com written by conservative Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle, in which Shaidle comments on the recent Katt Williams, we were lumped in with a bunch of other comedy websites who offered rather weak commentary on Williams’ tirade and the subsequent fallout. Titled “Stand Up and Say You’re Sorry,” Shaidle is none too happy about Williams, Tracy Morgan and other comedians caving into pressure groups when they should be unapologetic, “fearless truth-tellers, saying out loud what we’re all secretly thinking and getting away with it.
“Comedians used to make jokes,” Shaidle says. “Now they make amends.”
Ouch. And we agree.
Imagine our surprise, however, when we read this graf:
Laughspin asked whether Williams had acted “patriotic or just racist” with the cloying concern-troll earnestness that’s standard issue at (of all places) websites run by and for comedians. Every week, these sites cover some controversy involving a stand-up and an aggrieved (insert minority group) audience member. I need to remind myself I’m reading Splitsider instead of a Seven Sisters student paper, what with all the hand-wringing about “homophobia,” “misogyny,” “date rape,” and whether or not certain jokes are “appropriate” or “go too far.”
And the word “homophobia” was a link to our recent post about the shabby treatment of Bobby Slayton. In that post, we display nothing resembling hand-wringing. (In fact, the title of the post is “We Won’t Even Bother Commenting!”)
Shaidle must have made a mistake. We’re not purveyors of “cloying, concern-troll earnestness” here at SHECKYmagazine.com. In fact, we’ve been doing exactly the opposite for 12 years– which is one of the things that separates us from the other sites, and which earns us the enmity of some of our readers. (Perhaps Shaidle has mistaken SHECKYmagazine’s reader comments with our commentary. There is quite often no shortage of cloying, concern-troll earnestness from certain of them. But that’s highly unlikely, as Shaidle runs her own blog and has even commented on ours on two or three occasions.)
We dropped a comment on Shaidle’s Takimag.com piece and we’re not expecting any sort of retraction or clarification.
We will say that we left the Katt Williams controversy alone because we knew it would play out in a rather predictable manner and we can only repeat the same things over and over about these incidents so many times.
Were to compose such a posting, however, it would pretty much echo what Shaidle says in Takimag.com. And, except for the indirect slam at us, it’s worth your time to read it. (And, in case you haven’t gotten your fill of insipid nonsense, check out some of the comments below it– 32 and counting, including ours. That sort of reaction is also predictable.)
Actually, Shaidle echoes what we’ve been saying for 12 years or so.
Shaidle sent along an email in which she apologized for the apparent diss. The scare quotes around “homophobia” were meant to indicate that the concern-troll earnestness came not from us but from the people in the Bobby Slayton story that we commented on. We didn’t pick up on that, but we (and she) can see how there might be a bit of confusion. Apology accepted.
He’s baaack. Andrew “Dice” Clay is featured in a USA Today article that portrays Clay as a nurturing father (to his two sons) and an actor and standup who is mounting a comeback with an appearance (as himself) on Entourage, and discussions with Barry Levinson about an appearance in that director’s film about John Gotti.
The path to the new Diceman has not been without some bumps:
But doing standup club dates here and there wasn’t sufficiently paying the bills, not to mention child-support payments. Last summer, he went to Las Vegas to raise some money through gambling — which he had given up 10 years ago along with smoking cigarettes. He ended up losing more money than he won.
Curiously, there is no mention of the fact that Clay headlined the Versailles Showroom at the Riviera in Las Vegas during that period, then switched briefly to the Hilton just across Paradise Road.
Clay says he “hopes to release a memoir” and that he’ll “need somebody to work with me on it, but it’s time.”
We just obtained an advance copy of our book (“The Comedy Bible: The Complete Resource For Aspiring Comedians”– available for pre-order on Amazon.com!) and it’s beautiful! We knew it would be lushly illustrated and well laid-out, but we’re thrilled at just how handsome it is.
At the very least, Clay should buy a copy for his kid. According to the USA Today piece, 21-year-old Max (Silverstein) is a “budding standup comic.”
A Reuters report says that an intelligence monitoring group called SITE has discovered a threat from an al Qaeda militant against David Letterman.
The militant called on Muslims in the United States to “cut the tongue of this lowly Jew and shut it forever,” the threat against Letterman said, according to a translation by SITE.
Reuters helpfully adds that “The popular late-night television host is not Jewish.”
Of course, this makes no difference to al Qaeda. If you make a joke about the death of a “senior al Qaeda figure,” you are a figurative “Jew” and, therefore, deserving of death and/or hideous disfigurement.
And, by extension, we, as comics, are all deserving of same. (Let’s face it, we’re in a traditionally Jewish profession.)
Speaking of irrational hatred, Andy Dick chose “The Greg Fitzsimmons Show” to label Howard Stern a “shallow, money-grubbing Jew.” And just in case anyone was unclear on where he stood, Dick called Stern a “big fat hook nose” and “miserly.”
Dick cited as the reason for the tirade… oh, why bother? Is there a good reason to call someone a “shallow, money-grubbing Jew?”
What is it about shows hosted by comedians that brings out the hate? Our readers will recall that erstwhile CNN host (and permanent dufus) Rick Sanchez went on an anti-Semitic rant on Pete Dominick’s satellite radio show about 11 months ago.
Can we expect the Anti-Defamation League to call for Andy Dick’s tongue to be cut out? No. That’s not how they roll.
Is there a Muslim word for “boycott?” Hmmm… if there is, it has fallen into disuse over the past six or seven centuries. Too bad. There seems to be a pattern emerging among radical Islamists– skip right over protests and condemnatory statements and go right to the ol’ tongue removal/assassination call. We shall try to keep this in mind the next time someone tries to make an equivalence between Americans for Responsible Television and Shumukh al-Islam. Terry Rakolta is a piker compared to the likes of Zachary Chesser (aka Abu Talhah al-Amrikee). (We’re pretty sure Rakolta never published Ron Leavitt’s home address and urged people to “pay him a visit.”)
Facebook status reports are peppered with the news that Vic Dunlop has passed. The basic info on his Facebook page says, “I have been in the Comedy business for 37 years in one capacity or another. Stand-up comic, actor, writer, director, producer. I am also a COMEDY COACH.” He died from complications of diabetes.
Actors, writers, comedians Bill Kirchenbauer and Brad Slaight, posting as “Captain Glucose and Meter Boy,” said, “Vic took on the challenges of diabetes with great courage and never let it dampen his spirit or immense talent.” The diabetic duo (having Type 2 and Type 1 respectively) have crafted a multi-media campaign to raise awareness of diabetes.
Once again, Facebook serves as very real, very useful purpose– facilitating the grieving process.
We have a pre-school-age great niece with Type 1 diabetes and our late nephew also had Type 1. We’ve seen up close the challenges of managing the disease and we’re encouraged by recent advances made in the treatment and management of the disease. We urge our readers to participate in any of the various fundraisers that take place throughout the year or to cut a check on occasion to help fund the aforementioned research. At the very least, hit the above link to befriend the Captain and his sidekick and check out their website.
Who can resist clicking on a headline like “Playboy Playmate Shanna McLaughlin arrested in Fla. on gun charge.” Doing so brings you to CBSNews.com’s Crimesider, where we find a short piece by Casey Glynn on the arrest of the bumbling gun-bunny who was found carrying a .45 revolver with six hollow-points through security at MCO!
What struck us about the piece was this line, in the middle:
Thank God she didn’t try to bring any hairspray or over 3.4 ounces of liquid!
That’s a real head-scratcher there. It’s an attempt at a joke, but it’s such an utter failure that we couldn’t let it pass without comment. (And what’s it doing in the middle of a straight news piece?) We marvel when amateurs attempt to write gags. And when we see a gag like this one, we try to dissect it, to see if it makes an kind of comedic sense, on any level.
After the “joke autopsy,” we try to ascertain the author’s intent.
In the case of the above line, we suspect that Glynn is all hopped up about airport security. And that he (she?) has watched all his/her colleagues make all manner of wicked, edgy jokes about the TSA. So, when the opportunity to crack wise about the much-maligned airport security guards arose, it was just too good to pass up! Add in the fact that there’s a gorgeous (and, you know, probably stoopid) Playboy bunny involved and there’s the potential for comedy gold!
Trouble is, the airport security and the TSA actually functioned as advertised! (And the allegedly dumb bunny actually has a concealed-carry license… so we’re inclined to believe her “it’s my boyfriend’s gun” story!)
Some folks think that merely switching elements of a story around makes for a good punchline. In this case, it makes for confusion and embarassment.
Appropriately enough, comedy is like a handgun. Handle it with care and respect and nobody gets hurt. Or leave it to the pros.
The producers of the hit NBC sitcom Modern Family have re-cast “Lily.” (If you watch the show, you know that Lily Tucker-Pritchett is the daughter of gay couple Cam and Mitchell. They adopted the Vietnamese orphan, who was originally played by Jayden and Ella Hiller, and she appeared in the show’s pilot.)
The new “Lily,” according to Entertainment Weekly, is Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, daughter of comedian Amy Anderson and entrepreneur Kent Emmons. The new cast member is being introduced with great fanfare– check out the photo spread in EW’s hard copy when you’re in the checkout at the grocery store this week– by series creator Steve Levitan.
We hung out with Anderson last week at the Improv here in Vegas (along with Wendy Liebman and Jodi Borello). Emmons is an entrepreneur who presides over a comedy radio empire– he’s the “inventor” of the all-comedy/24/7 radio format– who we’ve had the pleasure to have met at a JFL or two.
Congratulations to both of them. (And if the tot turns out to be the next Olsen Twins– as some in the chat rooms and comments are speculating– then mega-congratulations to both of them, as Aubrey will preside over a $100 million-dollar pile of cash… or maybe just $50 million, since there’s only one of her.)
The Female Half told Anderson, “I hope the series runs on for so long that one day you can play Lily!”
There it is, at 0:50 of the clip: “Geechy Guy is, with the possible exception of Howie Mandel, the most annoying person we’ve ever had on America’s Got Talent.”
Piers Morgan delivers the line with a TOE-tah-lee straight face. And it’s quite ridiculous. How could Geechy Guy be the most annoying person on a show that is in its sixth season and which presented in the past a male, belly-dancing Shakira impersonator or someone who broke objects by squeezing them between his butt cheeks?
How could someone telling clever, original one- and two-liners be “annoying?” How could that same someone be “the most annoying… ever… on AGT?”
We understand that the producers have attempted to add texture to the show by making a big deal of a Mandel/Morgan enmity, even providing occasional behind-the-scenes video evidence of a feud between judges Mandel and Morgan. So, we get it that Morgan might be peeved when Mandel (a standup comic) champions (or at least fails to “X-out”) a comedian. But to proclaim that Geechy Guy is “the most annoying” goes a bit far.
Might there be something more to this?
Morgan also said the most uncomplimentary things about J. Chris Newberg, who was eliminated last week. And not just uncomplimentary– he called Newberg a “complete idiot.” We find both comedians to be hysterical and we thought Newberg’s shot on AGT was funny. But to call him a “complete idiot” seems somewhat over the top.
The writers for the show (and there are writers for the show, notwithstanding the fact that it’s a “reality” show) might be seeking to exploit the bad blood between the two judges. They might also be seeking to portray Morgan as a stick in the mud, a British tightass who just doesn’t get our American sense of humor.
But Morgan’s consistency when it comes to his dour assessment of comedians (and his choice of words) seems to point to something deeper. The man just might be a gelotophobe. Or perhaps he suffers from Frontotemporal Dimentia, or FTD. Those are two disorders we talked about in our book. Gelotophobes “do not understand the positive side of humor, and cannot experience it in a warm way but rather as a means to put others down.” FTDers, says a 2008 scientific paper, “have trouble reading emotions and are often unable to sense when someone is being sarcastic.” Sound familiar?
We’re reminded of a quote (again, which we found fit nicely into Chapter Two of our book) from English critic and writer George Saintsbury, “Nothing is more curious than the almost savage hostility that humor excites in those who lack it.”
We probably would not have reached this conclusion had we merely watched AGT and not suffered through an episode or three of CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. The man seems befuddled by the simplest concepts. (It was particularly startling to watch his jaw drop when Charlize Theron insisted that she spoke two languages fluently. He was dumbfounded– and more than a bit skeptical– when Theron maintained that her first language was Afrikaans and that she speaks English without any hint of an accent, and that she spoke both fluently and that she could switch effortlessly between both. Dumbfounded!)
Isn’t it kind of silly to have a judge on a talent show– a show that regularly features comedians– that can’t grasp humor? It’s as bad as having a judge on Idol who is tone deaf. Or a judge on Top Chef who has lost the ability to discern between sweet and sour.
Most people are irked by the fact that none of the judges on AMERICA’s Got Talent are Americans by birth. But we’re more bugged that one of them lacks the ability to detect an obvious joke. He doesn’t just lack the ability to pick up on humor… he gets hostile! Saintsbury died in 1933. He may not have entertained the notion that there were people walking the earth with an actual, measurable physiological/psychological disorder that went beyond merely “lacking a sense of humor.” But we here in the 21st century just might be able to identify them.
It’s not a family-friendly show. Of all the shows on primetime American television, why shouldn’t a talent show strive to be family-friendly? Conversely, if it fails to be so– and it presents S & M “artists” and pole-dancers both male and female– why shouldn’t the comedians be permitted to do R-rated material? How about we even the playing field a bit?
We signed up for the streaming-only version of Netflix shortly after setting up our home in Vegas. In the four or five months since, we’ve watched a ton of documentaries and some movies when we get the chance (which isn’t often, as we’re so damned busy).
The Female Half was working out on the treadmill at the gym the other day when she noticed that the plasma screen was showing an old Andy Griffith Show episode. She had her headphones on, but she could tell that something funny was going on… Howard Sprague (Mayberry’s county clerk, played by Jack Dodson) was doing standup comedy. She caught the second half of the episode.
Turns out that Netflix offers all its streaming customers every damn episode of The Andy Griffith Show ever aired. We found it rather quickly… first off, it was in color, so we worked backward from the newer episodes.
It was Episode 27, Season 07, “Howard The Comedian.” (And it turns out you can watch the entire episode on Youtube! See below.)
Howard tears up the room while emceeing a recent “lodge meeting” and becomes the toast of the town for his deadpan delivery of old jokes and other drollery. Eventually, he’s encouraged by others to pursue this comedy thing further… and Opie suggests that Howard might represent Mayberry by appearing on regional television show “Colonel Tim’s Talent Time” as a comedian.
Later on, Opie, in the county clerk’s office to pay his annual “bicycle license fee” (WTF?) sees Howard sweating over his upcoming TV spot and suggests that he personalize his material and twist the old jokes (from his “Jokes For All Occasions” book) to be about the colorful characters that inhabit his hometown of Mayberry. He enthusiastically embraces this approach.
This proves to be his undoing.
His customized jokes cause trouble. All the subjects of his gentle ribbing– Goober, Aunt Bee, Miss Clara Edmonds, Floyd the Barber– take offense at being held up to ridicule. All except for Sheriff Andy Taylor.
When Howard triumphantly returns to Mayberry, he’s stunned to find that he’s shunned by all. Andy is puzzled by the reaction and their lack of a sense of humor. Howard is sickened by it and regretful.
The big twist is that all the subjects of his gibes quickly drop their objections when they become nearly as famous as Howard himself.
They then refuse to accept Howard’s apology and disingenuously insist that he honor his commitment to a second appearance on “Talent Time”– never explaining the reason for their change of heart. Indeed, they dream up all sorts of excuses while studiously avoiding the truth.
Not a fine moment for the citizens of Mayberry.
We were expecting to see the comedian shamed and humbled. Instead, we’re treated to rather shallow behavior by the comedian’s friends. Quite a different treatment of a situation that’s been dealt with on countless sitcoms through the past few decades. Maybe the reason that everything turned in favor of the comedian in this case is that the episode aired in 1967 and the star of the show was a comedian himself (as was executive producer Danny Thomas).
At the end, Andy can’t really explain to Opie exactly why everyone’s attitude changed so abruptly. He tries to couch it in terms of ego and pride, but he abandons the attempt.
And we suppose it would be hard to explain. The episode says far more about the audience members than about the comic.
It is also notable because it depicts a comedian in semi-rural North Carolina in 1967. He wows the lodge meeting by telling old jokes, he instantly garners the admiration of his friends for his bravado performance and he is immediately encouraged to pursue further opportunities– says Goober, “There’s no limit to how far a good comedian can go!” And he preps for his upcoming television debut by poring over a compendium of old jokes.
Strangely enough, in the next episode, he is depicted in a brief scene at the opening as working for Chuck Johnson! (Just how old is Chuck Johnson, anyway? We kid because we LOVE! If you object, we’ll change it to Tom Sobell!)
We incorrectly referred to Howie Mandel’s latest project as being based on a Dutch televisions how. We were mistaken. It’s a Danish television show. One of our astute readers (see comments) from Holland (and we’re sure we’re using that term wrong) told us he’d never heard of Celebrity Standup. We also forgot to link the description of the show. It’s from Hollywood Reporter.
* * * * *
Ever since NBC failed to bring back Last Comic Standing, the only chance for comedians to gain network primetime exposure (while actually doing standup) is via America’s Got Talent. The talent contest showcases two or three comics each season. (But there is a downside: Simpleton “judge” Piers Morgan goes into his “I don’t get it” act after each comic’s performance and says dumb and mean shit and expresses annoyance and befuddlement.)
One of the other judges on that show, Howie Mandel, is heading up a group that will attempt to develop a Dutch television show for American primetime television. When it aired overseas, it was called Celebrity Standup. From Hollywood Reporter:
The show’s concept has celebrities revealing personal stories about their lives, which, over five days, they develop into a stand-up act. The VIPs then battle each other on stage in front of a live audience, who vote on who to send to the next round.
Great. So, instead of showing actual, competent, professional comedians doing standup, Mandel will present, in a reality show format, a bunch of B- and C-list “celebrities” demonstrating just how difficult standup comedy is.
Here’s what we can hope: The professional dancers on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” come across as looking really likeable, professional and entertaining (while their celebrity dance partners often appear clumsy and awkward). So maybe the American version of Mandel’s show will afford similar exposure to a gang of likeable and professional comics coaching the celebrity wannabes. It ain’t much, but it’s something.
Or… the clubs will be clogged with celebrities who have been christened “real” comedians by virtue of having done a handful of two-minute sets on a reality show without falling face-down in a puddle of perspiration.
Worse yet, the biggest of the trainwrecks might embark on a nationwide tours (a la Charlie Sheen). We can see it now: Newly-retired NFL star survives three weeks on Celebrity Standup– exhibiting ghastly timing while mangling jokes written for him by Conan staffers– eventually announces a 24-city arena tour. It can happen.
We fear it will be less like “Dancing With…” and more like “Skating With The Stars.” Lots of wobbly performances, lots of “injuries,” lots of wincing.
We were home for about nine hours total– between returning from a cruise on the Gulf of Mexico and heading out across the Mojave Desert for Los Angeles– so we were somewhat exhausted when we arrived in Redondo Beach on Friday afternoon.
The Male Half was scheduled for shows at the Comedy & Magic Club one town over, in Hermosa Beach, as part of that club’s monthlong birthday celebration.
As usual, the crowds were delirious and the lineup was befitting that august Southern California institution: Jimmy Brogan, Jim McDonald, Wil Anderson, Taylor Williamson, Diane Nichols, Jeff Dye, Ritch Shydner, Matt Fulchiron, Quinn Dahle, Ty Barnett, Daniel Tosh, Crystela Alonzo, Noe Rodriguez, J. Chris Newberg, Clinton Jackson, Greg Hahn, Laurie Kilmartin, Edwin San Juan, Angelo Tsarouchas, Alan Havey, Tommy Johnagin, Dennis Regan, Jim Edwards, on three shows over the course of two nights. If we left anyone out we apologize!
After the Saturday shows, we chugged down the Pacific Coast Highway and caught the last few minutes of Vinnie Coppola, as he closed out a show at Gaetano’s Restaurant. (It was a benefit for a movie– this is Hollywood, remember– called “Death To Cupid,” and we got to hang out with director Joe Gonzalez.) We also caught up on the past couple years with Coppola and with FOS/comedian Dave Smith, who we know from our days at a certain club in Atlanta. Smith and Coppola made the move west about 2-1/2 years ago.
In conclusion: Happy birthday, Comedy & Magic! AND: Comics and fans alike should check out one or two of the Twenty Hot Comics shows they’re putting on this birthday celebration month, every Friday and Saturday in July! The shows are fast-paced and oodles of talent populate each and every one (see list above)!
We visited Las Vegas last September to “observe” the World Series of Comedy, a six-day affair at the Alexis Park Hotel, dreamed up by comedian/producer/impresario Joe Lowers. We posted about it here and here, where we recapped the affair:
It’s generally agreed that the whole WSOC was a success and a lot of folks– talent and bookers alike– are hoping it repeats again next year. There’s some tweaking that needs to be done, but nothing major needs to change. There was surprisingly little bitching or strife when you consider that 101 comics went up, in a contest, over six days. No controversy– to our knowledge– and few if any regrets on the part of those who participated but did not win. This might be because, after elimination, the contestants found themselves in Las Vegas! It’s the ultimate place to grieve, to assess, to drown any sorrows. And– big bonus– eliminated contestants were still able to avail themselves of the other offerings– headshot session for thirty bucks, meet and greet with industry bookers/club owners, poker tourney, golf outing, etc. Though the main attraction may have been the contest, the overall feel was that of a convention. And many of the comics took full advantage of the gathering to network, to party, and to bond. It might be argued that upping the convention-type features might be a wise idea.
The winner was Andrew Norelli, who, since his success at the WSOC has appeared on late-night television and copped coveted headline spots at the Hilton in Vegas and at Comedy & Magic in Hermosa Beach. Cause and effect? You decide!
We mention it right here, right now, because it’s coming up again! Time flies like an arrow! Fruit flies like a banana! (Groucho Marx?)
Lowers has been augmenting this year’s WSOC with “satellite” competitions in various markets like Wichita, Raleigh and Scottsdale. But the big magilla will take place (as it did last year) this September (19 through 24) at the Alexis Park.
We had a blast at last year’s WSOC. But this year, we’re particularly enthusiastic because Vegas is now our home. Not quite sure how that works, but we’re excited.
Deadline for registration is approaching, and details for registration can be found here. The impressive list of clubs offering work to the winner(s) is currently at 39, but the website claims to be “working on 50 weeks.” And this year, one of the clubs is Jongleurs in England!
It’s been gone for four decades (as of last month). So the number of current, practicing comedians who received their first exposure to standup via The Ed Sullivan Show is understandably dwindling. It lives on via DVD’s and other media, but it’s impact was greatest when kids sat down in the living room– often with Mom, Dad and maybe even Grandma and Grandpa– and watched Myron Cohen or Alan King or George Carlin or Richard Pryor or Joan Rivers and secretly vowed, “THAT looks like something I’d like to do.”
Gerald Nachman has a piece in today’s L.A. Times about the show. And it’s shot through with references to comedians.
Few then had heard of — not to mention ever seen — Carol Burnett, the Supremes, Nat King Cole, Stiller & Meara, Jackie Mason, Eartha Kitt, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Phyllis Diller, Shelley Berman, Shecky Greene, Teresa Brewer, George Carlin, Keely Smith, Myron Cohen, Patti Page, et al. — when Sullivan escorted them into our homes on his national stage. His eclectic taste and a lust for the family audience inspired him to trot out acrobats, elephant acts, ventriloquists, along with the regulation comics and singers — plus, and perhaps most rarefied of all, little-known black performers.
Read the whole thing. Nachman is the author of, among other books, the seriously awesome “Seriously Funny,” an account of the cadre of comics who came up in the late-50s/early 60s and influenced our lives and the popular culture. And they nearly all owe a debt of gratitude to Ed Sullivan.
Did you Louis CK on Kimmel last night? He was talking about how, as a father, he constantly finds it necessary (and somewhat entertaining) to explain things to his daughters. He draws on his experience as an adult to explain the complex and the mundane. (As Kimmel characterized it, a parent is essentially his/her child’s “tour guide for life.”)
We’re piecing this together from memory. We recall that CK then goes on to say that he was driving around with his daughters and they spotted a cruise ship. He explained what a cruise ship was and he also added that comedians perform on cruise ships. When his daughter asked if her daddy performed on cruise ships, he said no. She asked why? It sounded so exciting, after all.
He then addressed that matter of why he (and so many other comedians) avoid performing on cruises. He explained that comedians have a “mean hatred” of comedians who perform on cruises. “We call them ‘boat acts,’” he said. He added that the cruise ship circuit is filled with comedians who “want to please everybody,” and that he wasn’t into “pandering.”
At this the daughter was puzzled. She asked, “Why wouldn’t you want to please everybody?” CK replied that, when he performs, he often upsets the people in the audience. The daughter then asked, “Why would you want to do that?”
CK was bemused. Kimmel was quite amused and said that it seemed that, in her naivete, the daughter was offering “clarity.”
The only reason we bring all this up is because we happened upon the interview quite by accident– we were scrolling through the channels on the television… in our cabin on a cruise ship. We’re performing on the MS Ecstasy this week.
A few years ago, such an exchange might have made us feel bad about ourselves. We might have taken umbrage at the characterization of comedians who work cruise ships as “boat acts” and the charge that they “pander” in their attempt to be all things to all people. But CK’s rant (if you can call it that) was funny, and his points were somewhat valid and he spoke some truth. But we couldn’t really work ourselves up over it.
Since we’ve plunged into the cruise ship milieu in the past six months (and since we started preparing for it in way back in July or so), we’ve gained some perspective.
It made us laugh.
We had been discussing these very issues with a group of comedians not 72 hours earlier.
We could go on to defend cruise ship comedians and say that there are actually a lot of great, honest, creative comedians who do cruise ships “under the radar” (out of necessity, for fear of being labeled a “boat act”). We could say that doing cruise ships has made us better comedians because it’s forced us to write and break in more material (both clean and dirty)– in a very short period of time. And that such an accelerated program has sharpened our skills and made us more versatile. We could also say that there are plenty of comics– in both the club scene, the alt scene and in college gigs– who pander like crazy in their attempt not so much to be please everybody but to survive and make a living. And we could also point out that “being all things to all people” presents its ownsignificant, unique challenges. (Trying to please a broad range of people or a diverse demographic doesn’t automatically lead to blandness or a lack of originality. Ask Brian Regan.)
To be sure, there is some justification in calling some cruise ship comics “boat acts.” (Stereotypes are often stereotypes for a reason.) But that is tailing off as more and more 20- and 25-year comics– many of whom have a more modern sensibility and perhaps a different work ethic– enter the sector. So we could present a fairly good argument against it.
But we realize that, as long as this meme persists, we’ll benefit personally. As long as the rumor exists, it will limit the number of comics who attempt to work on the ocean and will therefore limit the competition. More work for us!
We are sooo over caring about being labeled. What our fellow comics think of our approach to performing is none of our business.
And now, we shall shut the door behind us or, more appropriately, we shall draw up the gangplank. No more cruise talk, ever again. (Unless something funny or weird happens.)
Posted from poolside at No Name Sports Bar at the Barracuda Hotel in Cozumel, Mexico. It’s currently 79 degrees with overcast skies and winds out of the east at 20 mph.
From comedian Jim McCue‘s blog comes a report on an incident at (most likely, since the blog’s URL contains the words “in Tahoe”) the Improv at Harrah’s in South Lake Tahoe.
Bobby Slayton (“The Pit Bull of Comedy”) is onstage headlining and feature act McCue and the host (someone named “Howie”) are backstage in “a club that will remain nameless,” when some sort of ruckus occurs in the showroom…
Howie and I walked out and found an irate gay/Mexican guy… He was very upset and yelling that he was going to call G.L.A.A.D. and, after what happened with Tracey Morgan, he would get Bobby fired. Then, another woman came out. She’s angry about the show, but says to the first guy, “I’m not sure I approve of what you did in there [apparently he got on stage and went into a tirade], but I’m from San Francisco and we don’t condone gay bashing”.
You can tell where this is going. Slayton is “pulled from the remainder of the shows,” and according to the post’s headline, “suspended with pay.” McCue is bumped up to headliner.
H/T to Aaron Ward.
ADDENDUM: Here’s an interesting oldie from 2006. Sadly, there’s more where that came from. Just insert “political correctness” (with the quotes) into the Google search bar at the top of our center column.
All right. So… Vancouver loses in the Stanley Cup Finals to Boston. In Vancouver. So the Vancouver fans go nuts and tear the place apart and turn over BMW’s and set stuff on fire.
The video goes viral. As do the pictures. One pic in particular– it depicts, in the background, a bunch of “revelers’ retreating away from the photographer and, in the foreground, an out-of-focus, riot-gear-clad cop or two. And in the middleground is a couple– a guy and a girl– embracing in the middle of the street, and he’s planting a kiss on her.
Bruins fans? No. Just a couple, caught in the mayhem. And he’s trying to protect her and shield her from the broken glass and the rocks whizzing buy. And, to reassure her, he kisses her. And it’s caught on a chip and uploaded and it rockets around the planet and it makes the couple a worldwide sensation– particularly after they’re identified.
Australian Scott Jones and his girlfriend Canadian Alexandra Thomas are now “vacationing in California,” but they’ve hired Max Markson, spokesman for the Australian public relations giant Markson Sparks.
Here’s where it gets… interesting… or nauseating, if you prefer:
Markson Sparks will represent them and handle requests for interviews, endorsements and job opportunities for Jones, who’s an actor and standup comedian.
“I think for Scott it’s a tremendous opportunity for him to springboard his acting and standup comedy,’’ says Markson, who added that the couple is heading to Melbourne, Australia for a while, after California.
Jones, 29, who had one standup comedy gig in Vancouver before the famous photo was snapped but mostly worked as a bartender there, “could use this as a way of breaking through for a standup comedy career,’’ says Markson. “It could set him up for life, if he’s as good as Robin Williams or Bill Cosby.
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be boarding the helicopter soon to venture to the top of that really big “if” that Mr. Markson has set up in that last sentence. If all goes well, we should reach the top of the “if” in about a half-hour or so. Please be patient.
Are there hundreds of bartenders in Australia who are as good as Robin Williams or Bill Cosby, but are simply waiting for accidental, international fame so they can “springboard” their standup talents?
Is this what people think goes on? People do one gig and they emerge fully-formed as the next Robin Williams?
We shouldn’t be surprised. We were standing in line at the deli on a cruise ship recently when the nice man in front of us recognized us as two of the ship’s entertainers and engaged us in conversation. Upon learning that we were the comedians, he asked us what we did during the day. We were momentarily confused– does he mean, “What do you do to kill time?” or does he mean, “Do you have a day job?” He meant neither. He was curious as to what we did during the day, on the ship, when we weren’t performing… he asked, “Do you clean or something?” Clean? Here was a man– from all indications, a reasonably intelligent man– who thought that part of our duties as fly-on entertainers on a major cruise line was to clean.
It is this lack of knowledge that Markson is hoping to capitalize on. (We don’t believe for one minute that Markson himself believes what he’s saying.)